Facebook has introduced several new features in recent weeks aimed at aiding the media industry, including Stories to Share, and the public feed application-programming interface and keyword insights API, but the 1,500 or so online publishers tracked by NewsWhip’s Spike content-discovery tool were already well on their way to a content explosion on the social network, with the top 20 publishers seeing a staggering increase in social interactions (likes, comments, shares) of 288 percent between September 2012 and September 2013.
When Facebook announced the test of its Stories to Share feature last week, Vice President of Media Partnerships and Online Operations Justin Osofsky reported similar explosive growth in Facebook referrals the social network’s media partners, writing:
As we’ve worked with our partners and shared best practices, we’ve found that on average, referral traffic from Facebook to media sites has increased by over 170 percent throughout the past year.
NewsWhip shared more details in the infographic below, including:
- Gawker posted the largest year-to-year growth in Facebook engagement, at 549 percent, followed by BuzzFeed at 495 percent.
- “Old media” stalwarts The New York Times and the British Broadcasting Corp. delivered strong performances, as well, seeing increases of 160 percent and 122 percent, respectively.
- The Huffington Post was the strongest performer for the month of September 2013, generating nearly 18.5 million social interactions from 15,839 published articles.
And NewsWhip concluded:
Several forces may be driving this change. The rise of social media optimized content — articles that are optimized for driving social engagement and sharing — has been well documented. This content includes listicle-type “evergreen” articles, recognized as a core plank in the likes of BuzzFeed’s route to social success. With sites now optimizing content for the social Web, not just search engines, new patterns in content distribution have emerged. Another explanation is the link to the continued rise of active Facebook users. In October 2012, the site hit the landmark of 1 billion users, an impressive figure which continued to rise throughout 2013.
These developments are important for online publishers not only because the majority have recorded such huge boosts in social engagement, but also because it raises questions about where future traffic growth lies.
With all of this growth and fluid interplay between publishers, it remains to be seen how far this upward trend continues. Will social media engagement eventually plateau, leading to increased competition for the increasingly hard-to-please readers? Or will it simply shift to new platforms with specific and different needs?
Readers: How did your favorite online publishers fare in NewsWhip’s study?